Adaptive Design for Hybrid Events - GFE’s Live Conference for a Virtual Audience

ArchiteX produced Grantmakers for Education, a multi-site hybrid event, combining in-person and remote teams, brought together via cloud production and industry-leading site-to-site communication protocols.



SUMMARY

ArchiteX produced a live, hybrid event in Fall 2021 for Grantmakers for Education. Grantmakers for Education is the nation's largest and most diverse network of education grantmakers, dedicated to improving educational outcomes and increasing opportunities for all learners. GFE hosts an annual conference bringing together thought leaders and stakeholders. In 2021, faced with the challenge of producing an event during the uncertainty of a global pandemic, ArchiteX worked with GFE to create a flexible production design that would allow for programming to be remote or on location as needed.



EVENT DESIGN

Aiming to convene their leadership and stakeholders for the first time after having been all virtual for 2020, GFE planned to have a two-site event, with one small in-person attendance in Dallas and another in Los Angeles, with the majority of attendees viewing digitally. Programming would originate from both event sites in addition to fully virtual programming. Each event location would watch the other event sites when they were not live with programming.


Original Routing Plan



We began by identifying the best technology to enable site-to-site audio and video transmission with the lowest possible latency. In order to have each location in as real-time as possible, we settled on using the SRT communication protocol via the Birddog Cloud platform. SRT (Secure Reliable Transport) enables encrypted, low-latency, fault-tolerant media transmission over the public internet. This allows for connections between the two locations with the lowest amount of delay possible while ensuring a faultless connection.



We chose to use Birddog Cloud specifically because it converts NDI (local network video transport) signals into SRT feeds which are decoded on the far end. This enabled us to set up local NDI networks at each site and distribute video feeds as needed. Additionally, this allowed us to use the Birddog Cloud ‘Cloud Connect’ module to create a multiview feed for remote producers to monitor the program between all sites with sub-1 second latency.



As planning progressed and it became unclear whether it would be safe to convene large groups of people in multiple locations safely, we decided to shift our focus to one physical production site with enhanced safety protocols and no live audience. Using the existing communication architecture, we designed a film studio in our Los Angeles location and transitioned the Dallas programming to completely virtual sessions. The in-person and remote production teams worked simultaneously; While one team was live in production, the other was able to focus on onboarding and preparing their individual pool of speakers. Overarching producers managed communication between the two teams.


Revised Routing Plan



RESULTS

As a result, our on-site and remote teams were able to design and execute a program that allowed Grantmakers for Education to safely convene in person while still reaching their desired audience, tactfully responding to the challenges of event production during a pandemic


BEST PRACTICES IN HYBRID EVENTS

  • Identify the communications streaming needs first, and design a system around those directional needs

  • Maintain separate production teams for in-person and remote guests whenever possible

  • Set up an adaptable infrastructure to respond to last minute changes and additions when it is unclear whether speakers and attendees are going to be able to attend in person.

  • Have a unified communications system between remote and in-person staff.

  • Develop strong lines of communication with venue staff and virtual platform producers.

  • Use open captioning for accessibility when streaming to multiple platforms.

  • Determine which transmission tools are best for your use case. Pay particular attention to latency and fault redundancy.